Help us eclipse!
July 28, 2017 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Herr Vortex and I are disagreeing about where we should go to view the eclipse. We will start the day in Wall, SD and will end the day in Pueblo, CO. He wants to go through Nebraska, I want to go through Wyoming. Please help us so we don't miss the Big Show.

Here's the Eclipse Map. We're starting in Wall, SD (hello from Wall Drug). We plan on being up at the crack of dawn - maybe earlier - in order to station ourselves appropriately for the eclipse. The eclipse will begin at around 10:30 Mountain Time and will reach totality around 11:50. Google Maps gives us two options, he wants to do one and I want to do the other.

Our goal: to find a nice place to watch the eclipse. We're fine with pulling off on the side of the road - we don't need a party or an "event" or anything like that. I'd PREFER some natural area so I can witness the critters going from day-->night-->day, but really, it's no big deal.

His idea: drive west to Rapid City, and then drive south to Alliance. Although that is the home of Carhenge (and a big eclipse festival), we are not going that particular party.

His reasoning: if we get on a crowded highway, we'll have many other small roads that we can take instead to head south into Nebraska for the eclipse. Plus, we'll avoid I-25 and the corresponding traffic until we are just south of Denver. This is kind of a big deal because we'd rather avoid rush-hour traffic down the Front Range.

My problem: Everyone and their mother is going to be driving to see the eclipse if they live within a hundred miles of totality. I don't want to go somewhere super-populated. People will be driving to Nebraska from in-state, Colorado, and South Dakota. I want to stay away from Carhenge and the crowds.

My idea: drive west to Rapid City, and then get onto 85/18 and keep going until we get to Lusk, or further into the eclipse zone.

My reasoning: hardly anybody lives in Wyoming. I used to live in Wyoming and can safely say that it is a sparsely, sparsely populated place. Yes, people will be driving to the eclipse zone from in-state and South Dakota...but it will be a lot FEWER people than will be in Nebraska. I have driven down 85 many times and it is a nicely maintained highway in a flat land. It's unfortunate that we will then get onto I-25 in Cheyenne, but it can't be helped. We will likely run into rush-hour traffic down the Front Range.

His problem: if we go to Wyoming and there is a traffic jam, we have no choice but to sit in the jam because there are no other roads. It's remote and if there are problems - like a steady line of people heading south from...Devil's Tower? - we're stuck sitting in them.

We both agree that the likely worst eclipse traffic will happen between Wall --> Rapid City and then south on 79. We're willing to get up ridiculously early in order to accommodate the extra traffic. We have made peace with the fact that we will have to deal with some traffic on I-25 (which I dealt with for several years when I lived on the Front Range) and that we'll get into Pueblo late.

Metafilter, what say ye? We're really looking forward to this...but we're stressing out about which route seems like a better bet.

Obvs, if weather has any impact on viewing, we'll go to wherever the weather is fairer.
posted by Elly Vortex to Travel & Transportation around Martinsburg, WV (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be inclined to split the difference, cut across Route 20 and then south on Nebraska 29 or 71. They are two lane roads but very sparsely populated and pretty unlikely to get jammed up.
posted by beagle at 2:16 PM on July 28, 2017

I would suggest Wyoming -- I can't vouch for the traffic, but it's a much more beautiful place to be. If the eclipse were 100 miles further north, I'd wander out as far from the road into the Thunder Basin National Grassland as I can get and watch the eclipse with as little human presence around me as possible, pretend I'm living in the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey (but with less bone-crunching). That area is great for pretending civilization hasn't happened.

Also in the more remote parts of Wyoming -- I don't know about further south -- there are often signs that say how far away you are from civilization to make sure you have enough gas and water to make it to the other side; Even if there's more traffic, I think it will still be a manageable amount of traffic. Wyoming is a very big place.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:19 PM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, I think you may be misjudging where people are going to be heading to from Colorado to see the eclipse. When I was looking into reserving a campsite for the eclipse way back in Dec. there was nothing in the state of Wy. that wasn't already reserved, Nebraska still had plenty of sites available. I don't think I've talked to in anyone that didn't look at me kind of quizzically when I said I was going to Nebraska, until I explained the part about not being able to find anything in WY. For what it's worth we're planning on going to one of the smaller state parks\wildlife areas around Scottsbluff for the eclipse itself.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would look at the weather patterns for the area, and choose the most likely open sky. I witnessed the eclipse at The Dalles in Oregon last time, and the clouds graciously parted for about thirty minutes for the show. It was a gift from heaven, literally. Look for the shadowbands that precede Totality; it was extraordinary. We were up high, that's crucial as well. The animals around us were going nuts during the shadowband/Totality phase. Have a blast.
posted by effluvia at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd monitor traffic on Google Maps that morning and make a gametime decision. The two routes are aligned up to Hot Springs, so you don't have to choose one or the other until you reach that point. But have a couple of possible viewing spots in mind along both routes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:50 PM on July 28, 2017

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